The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Are You Experienced” (1967)

August 1, 2010 at 12:05 am (Jimi Hendrix, Music, Reviews & Articles)

David Harris’ review from the final issue of Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News (August 1967) of Hendrix’s debut album. Hendrix was just beginning to become known in America, and this review definitely was prescient…

Yes we were. Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell are without a doubt the most important musical, and in some ways, dramatic, happening in the world today, as this English L.P. and their appearances locally have proved. Hendrix has shaped his music, his stance, his stageshow, and his cool out of a myriad of definable and an infinity of indefinable influences; and yet from this synthesis emerges a completely unique and original genre. One can see elements of Bob Dylan, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, etc. in the music; the stage show is a ballet, a bullfight (with Hendrix as the matador), a religious ritual, a sexual act, and an unbelievable display of musical understanding, originality and technique, all at once.

This album contains eleven tracks which were recorded several months ago in England. They accurately represent one day of Hendrix; since this album was made he has improved a good deal, and in any event, much of his music is improvised. (When asked to perform certain songs on this album at the Fillmore, Hendrix admitted that he had forgotten them, and had stated that he had made them up at the session and had never played them since!) The quality of the music on this album is superb. All the tunes contained herein are originals; included are these tracks, all destined for the stature of classics (“Foxy Lady,” “Manic Depression,” “Red House,” “Can You See Me,” “Love or Confusion,” “I Don’t Live Today,” “May This Be Love,” “Fire,” “Third Stone From the Sun,” “Remember,” and “Are You Experienced”) These numbers are at least as strong lyrically as they are musically; and Hendrix, unlike almost every contemporary poet or lyricist, seems only too willing to explain any symbolism or, for that matter, anything else about his music and words which the listener may not understand. Several times during his numerous radio interviews in San Francisco he specifically explained the “message” or plot structure behind one of his songs, and the relationship of that given song to his life and experience.

This album must be heard to be believed; same goes for the Jimi Hendrix Experience in person. As of now, to hear the album one must order it from England; however, Reprise Records will soon release the American version of this L.P., which may include somewhat different songs. Just to set the record straight, I will list the other tracks which Hendrix has issued in various single releases on both sides of the Atlantic: “Hey Joe,” “Stone Free,” “Purple Haze,” “51st Anniversary,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Highway Chile.” In person he does so many other unique and all around hairy musical trips based around other people’s songs, like “Wild Thing,” “Two Trains Running,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Have Mercy,” and of course his unforgettable version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor Blues” (it opens up with an explosive guitar solo, proceeds into the contruction of a musical experience which can only be described as “tough”) that one would hope for the inclusion of all these tracks on some later album.

Jimi Hendrix has made a major breakthrough in the struggle toward the integration of all forms of music into one form. He has demonstrated that given sufficient technique, an artist can assimilate and use any and all types of sound in the formation of emotionally compelling and deeply personal style. Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell embody the musicians of the future, in that they interact so well as a rhythm section in Hendrix’s improvised lines. In addition, Noel Redding has one of the freakiest backup voices I’ve ever heard. One really hopes that the message of The Experience will soon start getting to the people for whom it will be most unsettling, the class of folks labelled by Tom Wolffe as “the great grey burghers.” It will be fun to watch them squirm when Hendrix achieves the giant success in this country that he so rightly deserves.

David Harris

1 Comment

  1. Dock Miles said,

    Nice reprint.

    “Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News” was a very important and groundbreaking “fanzine” (as we would call it now), self-published by famous draft-resister (& Mr. Joan Baez) David Harris with the help of budding music-journalist/garage-rock domo Greg Shaw. This piece shows how much music was tied up with counterculture awareness back in the day. For those with ears to the underground, “Are You Experienced” was simply something you would have to hear to keep current — what we now call the MSM all but overlooked it. (Though in a few years Hendrix would be featured in a celebrated photo-spread in LIFE magazine.)

    Couple of serious flaws —

    “Jimi Hendrix has made a major breakthrough in the struggle toward the integration of all forms of music into one form. He has demonstrated that given sufficient technique, an artist can assimilate and use any and all types of sound in the formation of emotionally compelling and deeply personal style.”

    These two sentences are contradictory in a way that Harris didn’t understand. There was no “struggle” to integrate all forms of music. He’s closer to making sense by noting Hendrix was about “sound” above all. What “Are You Experienced” did was hear and combine all the changes in rock and proto-rock music from about 1950, fuse that with a gut fixation on sonic technology and take a hundred steps beyond the status quo. Nobody’s done the same thing since. “Are You Experienced” is close to the equivalent of Louis Armstrong announcing what a lead instrument could do in jazz with “West End Blues.”

    The second problem is that Harris couldn’t describe music worth a hoot. So there’s no way to “hear” what “Are You Experienced” sounds like from reading this. But that hardly mattered. The idea was that you got the tip to scramble off your mattress on the floor and go down and snatch up this platter from the local record shop.

    Record shop?

    You know — those brick-and-mortar places where they used to sell physical recordings and you could learn something about music and yourself? Remember? If not, your loss.

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